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Happy birthday, Usain Bolt!

Today is Usain Bolt's birthday, turning 32 years of age. A talent for the ages, with an electrifying personality, he's certainly worth looking at in the context of success on a big stage.

I remember when I supervised law student interns at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, there was one particular law student who seemed to like the idea of being a lawyer, but without wanting to put in the work. He would come in late, but then leave early. He liked to meet with clients to tell them what to do, but his advice wasn't always grounded in the law. He had a certain air about him, as if his shit didn't stink, but over the course of his internship there were no tangible results to back-up the attitude. On that point, I repeatedly directed him to take notes of his communications with clients (which was standard for all law student interns, and which should be standard practice for all client-facing lawyers), but he would either write short notes lacking all relevant detail or he would simply ignore my directions. In sum, it seemed clear that he liked the image of playing a lawyer, but didn't want to do any of the actual work behind the scenes. I found out later that he was dismissed from law school for failing grades, which cemented my conclusion.

I'll admit that there is sometimes a certain element of performance, hopefully within tasteful, professional bounds, that is entailed when a lawyer is representing a client in Court. I believe Usain Bolt, being the showman that he is and was, would understand.

But as he clearly identifies in his quote above, the work is behind the scenes. That's where a real-deal lawyer proves him- or herself -- with the late evenings and weekends in the office, with the brainstorming about cases while in the shower or on the bus, with a religious devotion to writing case notes and staying organized -- all towards the goal of being as prepared as one can be when the lights are shining in the courtroom. The work is behind the scenes, away from the spotlight, away from anything near glamorous, and almost always away from the clients themselves. In this sense, hard work does equal success and the cliché that there are no shortcuts is true.

Anyway, with that application of a Usain Bolt quote to the legal profession, I say: Happy birthday Usain Bolt!

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